Friday, May 12, 2006

Rice & Spinach Cake

Maybe I was Popeye in another life - or perhaps Olive Oyl - because I just love spinach, especially at this time of year. Not the 'baby' leaves that add bulk but not much flavour to salads and nothing much at all to cooked dishes. What I look for around now is leaf spinach sold loose by weight with coarse stalks, deep green leaves and often bits of dried mud stuck to it gauranteeing it was grown in the earth. There is no point in buying a little bit - it will simply disappear in the pan. Half a kilo translates into a carrier bag stuffed to bursting but after washing and steaming it collapses to a deep green bowlful.

Its slightly metallic taste softens with steaming and it combines well with eggs, cheese, herbs, nutmeg and, best of all, butter. For a side dish it requires nothing more than a grinding of black pepper before serving. The Italians have long history of dishes that exploit spinach's propensity to combine well with other things - as stuffings for pasta and vegetables, in roasted fish and baked tarts and cooked with rice and herbs, as in this recipe from an old Claudia Roden cookbook 'The Food of Italy'. It was the basis of our lunchboxes this week - served in slices and packed with salad it was sufficiently summery to match the appearance (finally) of a few days of warm sunshine.

Rice and Spinach Cake

500g (1lb) fresh whole leaf spinach
250g (1/2 lb) short grain risotto rice
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tbspn olive oil
25g (1oz) butter
3 eggs
4 tablespoons parmesan, grated
Good grating of nutmeg

Wash the spinach and remove the stems. Cook until it softens then drain and chop fine. Boil the rice in salted water for 15 minutes till al dente then drain.

Fry the onion and garlic in the oil till golden and put it into a bowl with the rice and spinach. Add butter, eggs and cheese, pepper and nutmeg. Mix well and press into a buttered non-stick mould or cake tin. Bake in a 200C/400F/gas mark 6 oven for about 25 minutes till golden.

Turn out and serve hot. It is also very good cold.

You can add a bunch of chopped herbs - like basil, oregano, thyme, or parsley for extra flavour if you have some handy.


Tanika said...

Hi Bron,
Used this for our lunches today and it was a smash hit.
Even my son who has a particuarly strong dislike for all vegetables green was kept quiet as he ate through his serving.Thanks for the recommendation - safe to say this will definately go into my weekly meal rotation.

bron said...

Tanika I'm really pleased you all liked it. Easy, tasty, pretty - definite star.

Still on the case for other veg based slice/loaf type things...